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Into it: John Stossel

John Stossel, anchorman of ABC's 20/20, what are you ...

By Stephen Humphries / June 16, 2006

... Reading?

Charles Murray's In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government was a good stimulus to my mind. It approached basic questions, which, from Aristotle, have been, "How do we best pursue happiness?" "What is happiness?" It just asked and answered many of the basic questions about which form of government is likely to provide happiness for more people. The essence of that turned me on to other libertarian concepts. Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is an endless book with some too-long speeches about how the creeping regulation destroys opportunity in America. A group of the most creative people decide they will move to a remote part of the country and start over. Without their contribution, much of modern life, which is taken for granted by the smug regulators, falls apart. I'm on book tour – I'm barely able to keep up with periodicals at the moment. I certainly am reading Reason, Forbes, National Review, The New Republic, and The American Prospect. I read The Freeman [published by The Foundation for Economic Education]. I particularly like the writing of Sheldon Richman, who's the editor, and Walter Williams, who is always terrific.

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... Listening to?

I like piano concertos of Bach and Mozart – piano in general. I like Carly Simon and Billy Joel.

... Watching?

I loved Thank You For Smoking. The satire made me laugh very hard. The essence of the film is how the PR man for the tobacco business would meet with the gun industry and the alcohol industry; and since capitalism is demonized in America, these companies are particularly demonized. It was refreshing to have their good and evil and ordinariness spun in a funny way.

John Stossel's new book, "Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Why Everything You Know is Wrong," sets out to debunk commonly held ideas about everything from environmental concerns to education to parenting techniques to whether its safe to go swimming right after lunch. He even discovers that anyone can take a brisk walk on hot coals because wood and charcoal don't conduct heat very well.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

Really the subtitle says it – my repeated experience at finding out what I thought was so, was not. My ["20/20"] boss, David Sloan, pushed the myth/truth format.

You've used that format on "20/20"...

I had done some "myth" shows for "20/20." I had done some debunking of "myths" – and even my "Give Me a Break" [segments] you could say are myth-busting.

Of all the myths in the book that you debunk and demolish, which one surprised you the most?

What I learned about education was the biggest jolt, which was also my learning experience doing my show "Stupid in America" recently. It so crystalized my thinking as to how outrageous it is to have a government monopoly ... to rely on that to educate children.

There's a constant barrage of complaints that education isn't funded enough. What's your response to those claims?